Our Amazing Microbiome: 3 New Studies Spotlight Gut Bacteria

bacteriaDid you know there are more bacteria cells than human cells in your body? Most of them reside in and around your digestive tract, and your personal collection of cells is called your microbiome. The key to a healthy microbiome is making sure the good and neutral bacteria outnumber the harmful bacteria, which is why we so often hear about the importance of maintaining a balanced gut. Here are three new microbiome studies making headlines:

Further Praise for Fecal Transplants
Fecal transplantation refers to the process of transplanting stool from a healthy donor to a recipient in need—typically someone suffering from the infection Clostridium difficile, or C. diff. A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota and published in the journal Microbiome found that when people suffering from recurrent C. diff infections received healthy fecal matter (populated with beneficial bacteria) from a donor, positive changes were noted to their intestinal bacteria. What’s more, those changes had long-term benefits—lasting up to five months or more.

Can Poop Predict Obesity?
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recently embarked on a groundbreaking microbial study that reveals a link between what a population “eliminates” and its estimated level of obesity. Scientists collected and analyzed hundreds of sewage samples from more than 70 metropolitan areas and found they were able to predict the obesity rate of each city with more than 80% accuracy. Weighing in at the top was St. Joseph, Missouri, with a 37.4% obesity rate. At the other end of the scale was Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with a 13.5% obesity rate.

Can Miniaturized Microbiomes Reveal More Gut Bacteria Benefits?
Just think about the more than 100 trillion bacterial cells in your body and how they impact your well-being. Might there be benefits even beyond optimal digestion and immune health? That’s what researchers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina hope to find out. Using human tissue, scientists have discovered a way to create microscopic bacterial colonies they are calling “mini-guts.” About 15,000 mini-guts will fit on a small chip, which researchers will inject with different types of bacteria in order to test the impact of specific microbes on human health.

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Parents: Sugary Drinks Just as Bad as Soda

girl_drinkingMost parents today know that sugary soft drinks and diet sodas are unhealthy for kids and should be avoided, but results of a new study from the University of Connecticut tell us moms and dads may be offering up an equally unhealthy alternative: fruit juices, sports drinks, and flavored waters that are still loaded with harmful sugar.

“The labeling and marketing for these products imply that they are nutritious, and these misperceptions may explain why so many parents buy them,” study author Jennifer Harris told USA Today. She may be right on the money, especially since parents are inundated with labels that claim products are “low in calories” or contain “real fruit juice” and “essential nutrients,” suggesting they are a healthy option for kids.

According to the results of the study, 96% of parents surveyed said they had given their children—some as young as two years old—sugary drinks in the past month. The most popular beverages were regular soft drinks and fruit drinks, but sports drinks, sweetened ice tea, and flavored water were not far behind. What’s more, nearly 50% of parents involved in the study said they believed flavored waters were “healthy,” and more than 25% believed the same about fruit drinks and sports drinks.

Study author Marlene Schwartz believes it all comes down to product packaging—and that we need to be stricter about ingredient claims so parents are accurately informed about what their children are really putting in their bodies. At the end of the day, the healthiest choice for kids (and adults!) is fresh, purified water.

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